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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 00:04 GMT
Eye strain indicates work misery
Computer
Eye strain may be caused by psychological factors
Many people who complain of eye strain from using computer monitors are simply unhappy about their work, say researchers.

They found that in a third of cases the complaints may have nothing to do with any physical problems.

The researchers, from the University of Sassari in Italy, surveyed more than 200 banking employees, who completed three questionnaires on job stress, environmental working conditions and levels of eye strain as a result of working with computers.

All the employees shared the same environment and work duties, and none had any history of eye problems.


Work stress can produce both physical and emotional complaints

Dr Francisco Mocci, University of Sassari
They found that a third were suffering from asthenopia (eye strain) three or more times a week, and 13% had symptoms every day.

Eye strain included itchy, sore, or heavy eyes, and blurred or double vision during or immediately after work three or more times a week.

Almost a third of those who complained of eye strain also reported suffering from job stress.

No support

Problems included lack of social support, group conflict, low self esteem, low levels of work satisfaction, and under use of skills.

Workers who felt they received adequate support at work were a third less likely to report eye strain.

Lighting did not seem to affect levels of eye strain, but noise and environmental tobacco smoke did.

The researchers concluded that a proportion of eye strain complaints are due to psychological factors related to workplace stress.

Report author Dr Francisco Mocci said: "It has to be recognised that work stress can produce both physical and emotional complaints.

"Job demands - physical and psychological - influence the severity and frequency of health complaints of VDU operators.

"The expression of these complaints may be exacerbated by perceived high job demands, boring or repetitive job activity and poor support from colleagues and supervisors."

Dr David Thomson, an advisor to the British College of Optometrists, told BBC News Online that people in stressful jobs were likely to work long hours without taking sufficient breaks, and that this would increase the likelihood of eye strain.

However, he added: "It is more probable that the threshold at which people begin to complain about eye strain is dependent on how content they are with their job.

"People are more likely to complain if they are not happy in their work."

The research is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Health
'Most workers stressed'
26 Jul 00 | Health
Sterile offices 'causing stress'
25 May 00 | Health
Job strain 'as bad as smoking'
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